Thursday, August 21, 2014

writing today

 When I was a kid, I found a pack of labels designed to join the message space on a postcard. I don't know who wrote them but I memorized them and they said,

Can't think, brain numb,
inspiration won't come,
No ink, bum pen,
best wishes
Amen


even then I was learning the curse of writer's block, the longing to write and the abundance of ideas,
until faced with a blank paper
or a keyboard
and then nothing
doodled and watercolored and added photo faces to
add my boys to their favorite book as a poster

giving my own books the spotlight

playing with book covers
and my Betty Award for Duffy

but I am still writing, grocery lists, or postcards or scribbled poems, or facebook posts or book reviews or blogs, and while I do, the ideas and characters in the two books I am working on keep demanding their room in my mind.  And the stories are percolating and taking shape.  Today I wrote on a a snippet from Duffy Barkley: The Third Charm  This book is taking it's time but did some growth today.  I haven't edited it or figured out where the story ends but there are two groups on an Island, at the brink of war because both groups are uncertain how they got there and one group is trying to attract the attention of a passing ship but the other group is terrified of attracting the attention of whomever dumped them all on the Island in the first place
To Boldly Go


So Anyway,
Today's effort . . .



There are so many things that could still happen here,” Peg said. “There are a multitude of choices, you could erupt into war, which is sure to draw attention if someone is really looking for you. You could leave the Island together, and try to take up the life that was interrupted, maybe never finding out what happened here, or maybe finding yourself in the middle of something bigger than all this by far. Some could stay while others leave. You could continue trying to each live your own way, but that hasn't worked well and has only caused fear and resentment. You could decide to really make this your home and work together to build a new life you all approve of.
There are a multitude of choices here, and probably more than I am seeing now. Until you make one small change, then the fork in the road is behind you and the path seems to narrow and lead you in a new direction. Maybe you go to someplace better or someplace worse, but you find yourself in a new place even if you never leave the island.”
A few of the women gathered around her looked uncomfortable, and one of those spoke now, “but what if I can't choose? I don't want to make a choice.”
Izzy wondered how Peg would answer that. But she found herself speaking up before her great-aunt said a word, “Ignoring the options and refusing to choose; that's a choice too.”
Another woman spoke, so softly everyone quieted in an effort to hear her nervous voice, “but how can we know which is the right choice? I try to sleep and I can't stop thinking about the problems. My head fills with so many things that I hope for and then the things I'm afraid of chase them out of my mind.”
Peg smiled, “I know exactly what you mean. Sometimes when I want to work out the best choice among many which are overwhelming me, I have found a simple way to make my head clearer. When I am home, I take a walk where the direction of my feet leaves me no choices. So my mind is free to float where it wants to go and I find out which hopes are the ones I really want to see become reality.”
But if we tried walking like that here, without paying attention, we'd get lost or fall off a cliff or end up in enemy land.”
Well, I don't think they have to be enemies. That may be the first choice, to choose not to see them as enemies anymore.”
My farm has a lot of land, So I made a big path to walk. But it only goes in circles, in and out from a center. It is from an ancient pattern that many cultures in out world had even before recorded history. It starts and ends in the same place but flows through many turns. We call it a labyrinth. It is like a maze but a maze has wrong turns in it and false trails and is designed to get you lost. A labyrinth is designed to get you found.”
Peg picked up a stick and smoothed a circle in the sand and began to draw, winding back and forth through the circle in small wedges like the slice of a pie. She wandered in and our of the circle until the design blossomed in the sand like an abstract rose.
The women were intrigued and excited and began to expand on the idea until they decided to lay out their own labyrinth and chose a spot on a hill, far enough away that it had been ignored and unclaimed by both groups.
As the group trudged up the hill to check out the location, there was laughter and soft, excited chatter. Izzy placed her hand in Peg's and gave it a squeeze. Peg looked down at her, “How are you doing?”
I'm ok, but I wonder if this will matter at all if the rest of the people still want to kill each other off.”
Peg hugged her niece, “It might not make any difference at all, but it probably will. It is hard to ignore the voices of the Mom who raised you, and fed you and cared for you. It is hard to ignore the wife who welcomes you home and feeds you. In our world when men want to cause hatred and make people so angry and fearful that they are willing to die for the cause, they know they need to start telling their stories of hate young, and they know the ones whose voices are heard even more loudly than their own are the moms. That is why so many hate filled extremists, do not want the girls to be educated or the women to realize their own power. A good man is not afraid of a smart woman.”
You make it sound like all the war is started by men.”
No, and you know there are good men, and bad women. I don't mean to imply that Dads don't teach their children to be strong and kind, or that women can't be war mongers. I'm old enough that I think in the ways I was taught as a child, and the roles of men and women were more tightly defined then. You are lucky Izzy, you can be anything you want to be and people will judge how you do it. That I wanted to be a woman farmer even without a man around made some people judge me, even hate me, because If I didn't want to be a nurse or a teacher and then a wife and a mom, I must nor be a real woman.”
Then how did you get brave enough to follow your dream?”
I came here as a child, well not here to the Island, but to Uhrlin. And I had to be strong, and bull headed and no-one had the same prejudices as in earth in my time or knew me at all, so they waited to see what I did before judging me.”

But really, my point here is not what men or woman can do, but that a few small voices, men, women or children, speaking calmly, can show sense to the fearful and calm an angry mob.”



Thursday, August 7, 2014

Sometimes my Heart Recognizes a Story it could only love

     I can't remember where I first heard of this book, but I found it on my own Amazon page wish list and had obviously thought about it at one of those times when even a kindle book was outside my price range.  But I got an Amazon gift card as a birthday present recently, and right before I went to buy a copy of Two Loves Found, a sequel to a book I had just read by Sandy Graham - I found a copy of that book arriving in my mailbox as an unexpected gift.











my review of that here https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/976807623?book_show_action=false





 So anyway, I actually had book $$ and nothing in mind to spend it on, and found that I had saved The Ruby Brooch to my wish list - So on a whim, I ordered it.  I didn't even check to see what it was about, trusting my own taste even though I could obviously no longer trust my memory.

I have never been more grateful that I had waited to get a book.  Yes, I enjoyed it a lot, and yes it was a blend of many of my favorite things, but it really was way too close to my own middle grade novel, Double Time On The Oregon Trail, for me to have been comfortable having to say I had read it before I wrote my own.  In fact, I'm pretty sure I never could have written my book if I had read this first, how would I ever have know for sure that my ideas were not lifted from this story?


So what we have here is a young woman, in 2012 who has recently lost her family in a horrible way, and then finds a letter telling her, that they are not her birth family, but that she was a baby, found on a doorstep, wrapped in a bloody, monogrammed shawl with a ruby brooch that, by the way, transports people and things through time.  When she learns this, she understands why her Dad has raised her with a ton of outdoor skills, and taken her on Oregon trail reenactments. She makes her plans to find out who she is, and uses the brooch to place herself at the start of the Oregon Trail in 1852.

I love time travel and the Oregon Trail, which is why I had a girl from 2002 communicating with a girl from 1850 in my novel - and traveling the highways that retrace the trail now it is always fun to compare my swimming pools and air conditioning to their dust and drought and campfires but Ms. Logan has so many different comparisons to think about that I was immediately hooked into her novel and couldn't put it down.  It was also interesting to see that even in the ten years between my modern 2002 and her 2012, there were changes such as my girl had a phone card, but her woman had a iPod, mine had printed pictures but hers had a digital camera.  I did have to wonder about one thing, I get that she could use a solar charger and charge the iPod, and show saved information on it back in 1852, but I'm wondering how they managed to get hooked in to see you-tube videos?

I'm not usually one to read romances, but her novel also had a few wonderful characters who felt real, and when I realized that her next book has one of them involved in a romance, non time travel, I still had enough of a balance on my card that I bought this sequel as well. I really wanted to know that this person was ok after seeing where The Ruby Brooch left him at the end.  I guess caring about the characters so much means that yes, I am recommending this book.


and just above is the link to my own.

Thanks for reading.


Monday, August 4, 2014

Fort Laramie at Last


 Even though I grew up in Wyoming, as Did my Mom and her Dad before her - I had never been to Fort Laramie.  I grew up in the North-West corner of the State by Yellowstone Park.  So when I began researching for my Oregon Trail Novel, from my home here in the Pacific Redwoods, I used a lot of library books and mail order brochures, and as the years passed, Google and facebook.

 Facebook has a wonderful page about the Fort Laramie Historic Site at



 but still, even though we traveled back to visit family, we never quite made it to the fort, until this July.  This time, with my book published, and with having just taught it to a class of 4th and 5th graders, I really wanted to see the place in person. So we found it, kind of between whereby Sister-in-law and my Mother-in-law live and as soon as we got there, the sky opened up and dumped a flood of rain on us.

 but we are immune to rain after 30 years in the Pacific Northwest and also appeared to be the only visitors there who didn't own umbrellas, they don't work when you live where the rain comes down sideways.
 Anyway, I got to get out and stroll the grounds and grouse the rooms and get in on a "women at the fort" talk.  It was fascinating, but I learned it no longer looks much like the walled compound I had read about on that location in 1850.  The Fort has changed over the years, but the hail and heat and long miles to get to it remain the same, and when you think of doing those miles on foot or in a wagon, they appear so daunting!



 I like to camp, and I guess I could call this fun for maybe a month, but to travel in this for six months? I think I am glad I never had to do that, and yet, I wonder.












 To see my Novel about two fifteen year old girls, traveling across North America 152 years apart, but still helping each other, see here Double Time On The Oregon Trail



 a bit of the novel where I wrote about the fort follows at the end of this post





 Della stopped writing as a powerful memory hit her. She had been holding the hand of one of her students as the child jerked and screamed and died. There had been no time for the family to stop and mourn, but the men had immediately scraped out a shallow grave, wrapped the small body in a sheet and said a prayer before covering the grave with stones and more dirt and leaving it unmarked. All up and down the wagons, small groups were gathered for similar hurried funerals.
She blinked back tears and remembered the relief she had felt at reaching Fort Laramie for her Mother's sake. Dipping her pen once again in the unstoppered ink bottle, she picked up the writing again,


People tell me that the cholera seems to leave people alone once they make it to Fort Laramie. No one knows what causes it but they think the water is faster here and the land is higher and someway that adds protection. Our group is much smaller now than when we left St. Louis and the Cholera and accidents and weather and people shooting themselves have caused us to leave too many graves scattered behind us. The saddest part is that we will never be able to find the graves again, even if we ever come back this way. To hide the bodies from the wolves, or to keep them from being dug up for their clothing, we hid the grave by packing down the dirt and after that driving wagons across it, and if we had time, even building a campfire on top.
I doubted that she would agree, because Mother thinks that Doctors are all quacks. The fact that she didn't argue tells me she was feeling more poorly than she allowed to us. We did get Mother to see the fort Dr. today, and the man gave her a bottle of tonic which he says will stimulate her liver and clean her blood and leave her strong and healthy. He also gave her some Calomel, and told her that she should stop taking it once she feels her face go numb and she begins to drool a bit. Then she will know it is working. He said that after that, if she is still feeling poorly it is safer to switch to using arsenic to improve her health. He charged Father two dollars. Then he treated many other members of our group with such complaints as burns and gunshots and the bloody flux.
Orville said he must make a lot of money and the Dr. said he sometimes made as much as five dollars when he needed to perform an amputation. Orville said being a Fort Dr. must be a grand way to become rich and the Dr. did not argue. Later, one of the girls who lives here told me that the Dr. often treats people for free or for a bit of trade if he knows they could not pay for him.
Back East we did not go to Doctors, The home remedies are better and safer, and for certain no-one goes to a hospital if they want to live. Many people decide to hang a shingle and be a Dr. if they can't make money from another trade. Here on the trail they seem to be better, I think they see so many people that they get more practice doing the kind of healing that needs done here. Or maybe the kind of person who cheats people is too lazy to brave the trail.
We did get me a new pen in a leather case, with a few nibs, but I feel guilty for asking when the prices here are so much higher than in St. Louis.
Mother says she is grateful that we have enough bacon, and that our chickens provide eggs, but we purchase more cornmeal to refill the barrels. Maybe there was enough to make it to Oregon but it also protects our eggs and Mother's china, which is packed into the barrels with it.
Orville begged until he convinced one of the soldiers to allow him and three of his friends to climb up on the top of the rooms which are built around the inside walls. The roofs of these rooms become a walkway by which means the soldiers can patrol the high outer wall without making targets of themselves. I was expected to be more interested in shopping, but I envied the boys ability to explore that view. It wouldn't have been right for a young lady to talk so freely with the soldiers and for a moment I wished I were 10 instead of 15, so I could worry less about 'proper.'”


Della, Blow out that lantern and come to bed now.” Her Mother's voice interrupted the flow of her thoughts and Della looked at the burning candle behind the glass doors of the lantern. Those precious candles must last until Oregon City when they would finally have time to make more unlike the butter which churned itself on the trail, candle making could be very time consuming. She stoppered the ink, put away her journal and blew out the candle. Then she closed her eyes briefly to allow them to adjust to the dimmer light and when she opened them again the brilliance of the stars dancing above her took her smiling into sleep.